Friday, August 29, 2014

The Houdini Tramp Chairs

In the photo above, is an unusual item from the Salon De Magie, the collection of Ken Klosterman. I'm not sure of the origins, as far as where Ken got this, but he is very thorough in his documenting items that he puts in his collection, so I have no doubt it's authentic. My guess is that it's a challenge that Houdini received. I do know it's featured in his book Salon De Magie, unfortunately, it's one of the few books I do not have. In the photo above, you'll need to excuse the leather device underneath the chair and the orange/red box sitting on the chair, as they are not part of the Tramp Chair.

I did some general research on this type of chair and they were basically made in small jails when there was no space for extra prisoners. These could sit in a hallway or outside the cells and still contain a prisoner because they would be handcuffed to the chair. I have a feeling the neck collar was added just for Houdini, and for all I know, it may have been added BY Houdini.

The was this would look in performance or in challenge performance is Houdini would have both wrists handcuffed to the chair section and his neck would be put in the neck collar and locked up. This would prevent Houdini from bending down, so he couldn't use a key in his teeth. He also would be unable to lift a hand to help undo either the neck collar or the other hand. At least this is how it would appear by the audience. Whether he did this in full view or behind a cabinet I do not know, though my guess is with this particular device he probably presented it behind some sort of curtain.

His brother Hardeen also encountered a Tramp Chair which was dubbed the Maine Tramp Chair. This is a very different device. The Maine Tramp Chair is like a portable jail cell, or a chair on wheels surrounded by a jail cell. It's a very strange relic from the 19th Century. Hardeen successfully escaped from one of these at the Bijou Theatre in Bangor Maine, in 11 minutes 54 seconds.

Houdini also claimed to have escaped from a Maine Tramp Chair in Boston, but he called his a 'Witches Chair'. For historical purposes, there was something called a 'witches chair' but it was not the same as the Maine Tramp Chair, it was a wooden chair with spikes embedded in the seat and back cushion so as to cause the sitter extreme pain. I think that Houdini's Witches Chair however, was not this, but in fact was another Maine Tramp Chair or one similar. The description of the Maine Tramp Chair can be found in Houdini's Magic & Escapes by Walter Gibson.

Maine Tramp Chair
You can check out ALL the various articles from 30 Days of Houdini HERE!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Little Unintentioned Houdini Duplication

David Saltman is the writer who runs He is also a writer, producer and director of quite a few documentaries and he is a well established author who has a book coming out on Houdini very soon. Plus, David is a nice guy. I was fortunate enough to meet him last year at the Washington D.C. Symposium on Magic History.

I was looking at his site which always has very unique articles on Houdini and magic, and which sadly I don't look at enough. I say that because I noticed on May 22 he posted a piece on Houdini having issues with his luggage. He put the actual newspaper article in the piece as well. Fast forward to August and yours truly puts the same article, though a different headline from a different paper on this blog as part of the 30 Days of Houdini. Ugggh, I hate duplicating stuff other people have done, though sometimes it's unavoidable.

Speaking of duplication, yesterday I put up the details on where to find the HOUDINI-Miniseries DVDs. I am very aware that John Cox was the first to put this up, but as I recall he pointed people to whereas I pointed them right to A small detail, but this is more of a service to help you (the readers) find these great Houdini items that you can add to your collections.

I have to stop for a minute and mention, I have NOT seen the Houdini Miniseries yet. I have not even seen the first night, as some folks have. I've been so busy, I've hardly seen the trailers, lol. I have pretty mixed feelings from what I've seen and from some things I've heard. But I'm hoping for the best and trying not to past judgement too early. If memory serves, I was quite excited about the last Houdini movie, which was called Death Defying Acts with Guy Pierce and Catherine Zeta Jones. I truly did not think any movie could be bad that had Catherine Zeta Jones in it, but I was wrong. That movie was awful and had nothing to do with Houdini.

I don't expect this version created by The History Channel to be perfect, but as I mentioned I'm hoping for something good. The Tony Curtis/Houdini movie is filled with fictional stuff and that movie did more to bring new people into magic and get people interested in Houdini than anything I can think of in my lifetime. So a bit of artistic liscence I guess is ok. But there are some things I've seen in still images that are causing me great concern. I'm going to hold my tongue for the moment.....BUT, I know someone who has already put his opinion out there, David Saltman. And David, has done a very good job of backing up why he thinks the way he does. So I'm adding the link to one of David's articles on the new movie. There are three I think. You may wish to wait until you've seen the movie in case you are afraid of forming an opinion before seeing the movie. Or, you can just read what he has to say, all of which I tend to agree with, and then watch the movie and judge for yourself.

Forget the Movie for a Moment, The History Channel Stumbled On Something Bigger!

I still am shocked this slipped by me. But now that it's over and I've had a chance to look at the 'home
marketing' efforts used by the History Channel, I realize that they stumbled upon a stroke of genius.
Let me explain. The History Channel had some sort of contest which culminated in a Viewing Party for the new HOUDINI Miniseries. Those who participated received a packet of pretty cool stuff,  in the words of John Cox, "The party pack included a DVD of Night One, a poster, coasters, a Houdini cocktail shaker, a red carpet, and other nifty Houdini tie-in swag."

So basically, they had a HOUDINI PARTY and the highlight was the movie. Great Idea. My question is, WHY DIDN'T WE THINK OF THAT????? Here magicians have been doing a few scattered Seances once a year for the past 50+ years. Why don't we have a HOUDINI PARTY and really do it up?!!!

I propose that we (the magic community) start having Houdini Parties either the week of Halloween or the week after. The reason I say the week after is due to the fact that a lot of magicians may be doing gigs during the week of Halloween. I'm going to blatantly steal ideas from this Houdini House Party event, because they are so good. Party Favors should include big handlebar mustaches, handcuffs, or similar restraint devices, bowlers and top hats. If you really wanted to do it up right, everyone should come in period costume. Cosplay, which is an abbreviation for Costume Play, is HUGE right now and the Victorian Era, thanks to Steampunk, is equally huge. There are places you can go to find the perfect costumes. And hey, why not come as your favorite period magicians, like Kellar, Herrmann, Blackstone, Malini, Hardeen, Houdini and others. How cool would that be? If nothing else, the guys should have some sort of period hat, and the ladies can wear period hats or bowlers and top hats too! It would be up to those organizing it.

The highlight of the night doesn't have to be a movie, though it could be. Or it could be a show put on by some of the magicians. And I wouldn't make this a magicians only event. Wives, Girlfriends, Family, Neighbors should all participate. Spread the 'Magic Good Will' or the 'Houdini Good Will'!

I'll tell you something I did years ago with the local SAM Assembly. We had a Handcuff Escape Contest. I supplied the cuffs, many different varieties and I put out a bowl of assorted keys. The first one to find the right key and escape won a prize. It was a big hit. Something else you could do is take a page out of the Tony Curtis Movie and have a Straitjacket Escape Contest with a prize going to the first one to get free!!!! (be careful with this one that no one falls over and gets the movie again to get an idea of what can potentially happen)

I really think this is a better way to keep the spirit of Houdini alive, better than a Seance. Let's face reality, Houdini ain't coming back. He had his chance and he's obviously either doesn't want too or he's all tied up. :)  So why not have fun, celebrate, share some magic and then watch a Houdini movie or put on a show.

What do you think? I would really like some comments on this one!

I think I'm going to put together a downloadable brochure on this with ideas and tips and sites you can go visit to find costumes, hats, and other fun stuff. Please send me your ideas, but I'm also going to proceed with this right now and add suggestions along the way.

By the way,  to see all the various articles on the 30 Days of Houdini, go here,

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Movie Isn't Out Yet, But Look At This!!!!

I will say that the folks doing the Houdini-Miniseries sure have their marketing caps on straight. They are tackling this thing with a targeted precision that Houdini would be proud of. I do think they've dropped the ball in a few areas, but I could be wrong about that because there are still a few days before the movie airs.

The DVD is already available for pre-orders on the History website. I have a sneaking feeling this movie is going to do wonders for boosting the numbers of young folks interested in magic. I hope the magic clubs are ready for the influx of young people. In fact, every magic club in the country should be actively promoting their club in the hope of pulling in new members. This is the ideal recruiting tool.

The Latest Movie Houdini

The latest actor to play the part of Houdini is Adrien Brody. Mr. Brody was born April 14, 1973 in Queens, NY. His mother was Hungarian and Jewish, so here is a connection that Adrien has to Houdini. Also, both the real Houdini and the movie Houdini are both Aries.

Adrien's interest in magic began as a kid. I'm not sure what the inspiration was to get into magic, but he actually presented magic shows at children's birthday parties as The Amazing Adrien. That's a tough one because I don't think Houdini ever did birthday parties.....but they both were into magic!!!

At about the age of 11 Adrien attended the prestigious Tannen's Magic Camp. Other past notables who attended the camp include Television Sensation David Blaine, The Prolific and Talented Joshua Jay and the Millionaire's Magician, Steve Cohen. The Camp has been running every summer since 1974 and brings in 130 students every summer to learn about magic. Someone on Facebook mentioned that Adrien was a big fan of Johnny Ace Palmer from back in his Magic Camp days and ran into him at a gig. Imagine having an Oscar Winning Actor as your biggest fan!

There are other connections to Houdini. In 2008, Adrien Brody starred in a movie called The Brothers Bloom with Mark Ruffalo. Mark played Theo Hardeen in the TNT Movie HOUDINI back in 1998. By he way, the co-star in The Brothers Bloom was Rachel Weisz who is reported to be an ancestor of the real Houdini.

The first time I recall hearing about Adrien Brody being into magic was during the promotional tour for his movie The Pianist. Apparently, he claimed that the dexterity he developed during his magic show days came in handy when having to learn to play the piano for that movie.

Monday on The Today Show, Brody even demonstrated a piece of magic. An impromptu stunt of taking a dollar bill and breaking a pencil with it....proving that a simple trick well executed goes over well on TV. Watch this interview and at the end Brody does his magic! By the way, take a look at the background animations on the set, the name HOUDINI appears in the background numerous times with chains and locks under the name that are swaying back and forth. Very cool!